16 House members eyed as senatorial bets in 2016

By Paolo Romero, The Philippine Star

Posted at Mar 18 2014 02:28 AM | Updated as of Mar 18 2014 10:28 AM

MANILA, Philippines - At least 16 lawmakers from the House of Representatives are being eyed as possible senatorial aspirants in the 2016 national elections, even as political analysts warned the race for the upper chamber would be tight.

Among those seen as possible senatorial candidates for both administration and opposition parties or as independents are Reps. Elpidio Barzaga (Cavite, National Unity Party), Alfredo Benitez (Negros Occidental, Liberal Party), Rodolfo Biazon (Muntinlupa City, LP), Winston Castelo (Quezon City, LP), Neri Colmenares (Bayan Muna party-list), Ben Evardone (Eastern Samar, LP), Rodolfo Fariñas (Ilocos Norte, Nacionalista Party);

Sherwin Gatchalian (Valenzuela City, Nationalist People’s Coalition), Lani Mercado-Revilla (Cavite, Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats), Romero Quimbo (Marikina City, LP), Manny Pacquiao (Sarangani), Rufus Rodriguez (Cagayan de Oro, Centrist Democratic Party), Ferdinand Martin Romualdez (Leyte, Lakas-CMD), Mel Senen Sarmiento (Western Samar, LP), Tobias Tiangco (Navotas City, United Nationalist Alliance), and Niel Tupas (Iloilo, LP).

Those with the LP, NUP, NP, NPC and CDP are with the administration bloc in the House, while lawmakers with Lakas-CMD and UNA are considered to be with the opposition or independent.

However, the prospective senatorial candidates in the House quickly switch party allegiances or political affiliation as the elections approach, according to political and economic analyst Richard Javad Heydarian.

He also said the senatorial elections in 2016 would likely be crowded.

He said another factor shaping the political landscape is the fact that President Aquino is stepping down with his protégé – Interior Secretary Mar Roxas – perceived to be weak as a presidential candidate compared to Vice President Jejomar Binay, and possibly Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano.

Binay earlier said Pacquiao had agreed to run for senator under his soon-to-be-formed political party.

“There is also the anti-incumbency vote because of the pork barrel scandal, where voters could have the tendency to reject those involved in the alleged scam,” Heydarian said.

He said among the House members eyed to run for the Senate, only two to five have chances of winning – Mercado-Revilla, Pacquiao, Rodriguez, Romualdez, and Tiangco.

Mercado-Revilla could capitalize on name recall and the record of her husband, Sen. Bong Revilla, who is being eyed as possible standard-bearer of Lakas-CMD in 2016, he said.

Pacquiao remains popular as allegations of tax evasion did not stick, while Rodriguez could be seen as a crusading lawmaker, relatively untouched by the pork barrel issue.

Romualdez, he said, gained some fame for apparently being a victim of politicking by the Aquino administration in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Yolanda.

Tiangco could capitalize on his ties with the popular Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada.

“The rest may have to rely on party support, or the President’s endorsement,” Heydarian said. “I’m sure that there are also those who are embittered by their respective parties, and there will be party switching.”

He said Aquino’s popularity remains a potent force in the elections that should not be counted out.